Drug Screening to Treat Early-Onset Eye Diseases: Can Zebrafish Expedite the Discovery?

  The molecular basis of many early-onset eye diseases has been uncovered but the number
of available drug treatments for improving deteriorated vision is still scarce. Consequently, there
is a high demand for new drugs to treat these diseases. This review first provides a brief synopsis
of the utility of zebrafish model for screening drugs with vision benefits. In particular, visual-
motor response (VMR), the activity response of larvae to a change in light stimuli, is proposed to
serve as a simple and efficient tool for screening drugs that may improve vision in various
zebrafish visual mutants. The second part of the review discusses the identification of novel drug
candidates, with particular emphasis on naturally-derived chemicals including traditional
Chinese medicines (TCMs) and nutritional therapies on retinal degenerative diseases. Many of
these chemicals have been used in neuroprotection and/or have been consumed by many
populations for good health and vision; thus, the screening of these chemicals with various
zebrafish visual mutants would expedite the development of novel drugs for treating early-onset
eye diseases.